Disclaimer: I don't own them and can't even afford to rent them. No disrespect intended for anyone who is involved with this amazing television show.
A/N: In a random conversation, a friend mentioned she wanted to read a story about Dean being comforted by from Sam in the Impala; that maybe he'd woken up from a nightmare and needed his brother's support. Or, words to that effect any way. This is what I came up with and I'm happy to say it got her approval. I hope you enjoy it as much as she did and feel free to review.
Thanks to Marie, too, for her quick beta.
As a mother's blood runs cold
There's no forgiveness
When your soul is sold
- Sorry Boy –
It was dark and there was heat all around him. He couldn't see it, but he was on something cross-shaped; lying on his back, not hung from it. His legs were tied together at the ankle and his arms spread out, tied at the wrists.
This couldn't be happening again. He'd just been with is brother; he couldn't be in Hell. Not again.
Oh please, not again.
Dean screamed, but only inside his head. It didn't matter since no one would come to help him, anyway. He struggled even though he knew the binding would not give way. He was trapped and there was no way to escape.
"Sam!" Dean yelled. This time it might have been out loud, but he wasn't sure.
He somehow managed to calm him panicked breathing, thinking he heard something other than his own terrorized moaning.
"Who's there?" Dean demanded into the perfect blackness, his voice shaking.
He was sure he heard something. Footsteps, maybe. There was someone in the room with him. If he was even in a room. He didn't know. He couldn't tell. Why was it so damn dark?
"Show yourself!" he screamed, vocal chords straining.
Dean tried to move his head, but it was restrained like his arms and legs. Sweat stung his eyes and might have mixed with tears as it rolled down his face toward his ears.
He was dreaming. That had to be it. He hadn't done anything to make Castiel send him back to the pit. Surely no demon could drag him back if an angel had pulled him out. Or had it been Uriel? Could he have done it? He'd threatened, but he'd been bluffing. Hadn't he?
He had to wake up. It was a dream, he was sure of it. It had to be. It….
There it was again. Footsteps.
"Damnit!" Dean screamed. "Who are you? What do you want?"
Maybe it's just my imagination, Dean thought frantically.
Oh God, please let it be my imagination.
What the….someone sharpening knives. Oh God, not the knives. Anything but that. Please.
"No," Dean breathed. "No!"
Even though it was useless, Dean struggled against his bonds. They ate into his flesh and the pain was almost too much to bear. But it didn't compare to what was on the way. He knew. He remembered. Oh God, he remembered.
And then suddenly he was the one holding the dagger and looking down at some other soul trapped on the rack.
He felt a hand on his arm and he suddenly couldn't stop shaking.
"Dean, wake up!"
Dean squeezed his eyes shut tighter. He didn't want to open them and find himself alone. Or worse, with….Who? Who was he just thinking of?
"Come on, man."
Now the hand on his arm clasped his shoulder. It was firm, yet somehow comforting. It was Sam's hand, he was sure of it. Please, let it really be….
He heard the soft growl of the Impala's engine and Dean dared to open his eyes.
"You okay?" Sam asked, concern on his face and in his voice.
Dean sat up and wiped his face, feeling the heat that poured from the dashboard vents. He looked around and saw that they were parked at a roadside convenience store.
"Where are we?" Dean asked, his throat tight.
"About forty miles west of Lincoln."
"Nebraska?" Dean asked, trying to clear the horror from his mind.
"Yeah," Sam said, his hand still on Dean's arm. "Remember, we're headed to Bobby's?"
Dean nodded. "I need the bathroom."
"It's inside," Sam said. He pulled the keys from the ignition.
"I don't need a chaperone," Dean said and opened the door. He stepped out of the car, finding his legs wouldn't support him. Before he could do anything about it, he had fallen unceremoniously on the ground. "Sonofabitch."
In a moment, Sam was out of the car and by his side. Dean looked up at his brother "Okay, maybe I do need a chaperone," he smiled weakly.
Sam held out a hand. Dean hated to, but he had no choice but to take it. Damn nightmare. They started for the store and after a few steps, Dean was able to walk on his own. Still, Sam stayed close.
"I can take it from here," Dean said once they got to the bathroom door. There was only one for men and women. He turned to look at his brother before closing the door. "But don't go far."
Sam couldn't hide the shock on his face as Dean closed the door. It was almost midnight and other than the clerk, there was no one else in the store. Sam knew that because he'd just been inside.
He'd parked and left Dean to sleep when he only grumbled at the announcement that they'd stopped. It was cold outside, below freezing, and he'd left the car running with the heat on. But he'd locked the doors after making sure he had his own key with him.
On his way back after using the bathroom and buying a large cup of coffee, he was still several feet away from the car when he saw Dean's pained expression through the quickly fogging window. He'd known Dean was dreaming when he heard the blood curdling scream come from inside the car.
Afraid to open the passenger side door for fear he wouldn't be able to catch Dean, Sam had slipped behind the steering wheel, leaving the coffee on the ground next to the car. It had taken several seconds to wake his brother from the nightmare that held him captive and Sam couldn't even begin to imagine what his brother was seeing behind his closed eyes. Dean didn't move, but he spoke. Sam couldn't understand the words, but he knew the tone.
Judging from his reactions, this was the worst dream Dean had had in quite a while. Since his memories of Hell had returned, the nightmares that had initially tortured him had lost their bite. He had expected Dean to wake violently, but instead his eyes had just opened and Dean had called out for him.
He hadn't really expected Dean to let him play escort to the bathroom, but Sam had turned off the car anyway, fully intending not to leave Dean alone. Seeing the fall had scared him and his reaction had been immediate.
Sam glanced around the store. He assumed Dean would want a beer, so he plucked a six-pack from the refrigerated case and bought another cup of coffee. If Dean didn't want it, Sam would drink it. No doubt his own outside was already cold.
Dean came from the bathroom as soon as Sam had finished making the purchases. At first, there was alarm on his face, but his expression relaxed as soon as he saw his brother. Sam was worried all over again.
They walked to the car side by side; Sam paused outside the passenger side door as Dean got in. He'd expected Dean to want to drive. Once his brother was inside, Sam held out the coffee. Dean shook his head. He also refused the beer. Sam slipped the six-pack into the back seat and went around to the driver's door, pausing to pick up the earlier discarded coffee cup from the ground and tossing it into a nearby trash can.
Sam held the cardboard cup gingerly between his legs as he started the car. He saw Dean shaking and turned the heat up, not at all sure it was the cold causing it.
"Must have been a hell of a dream," he said, giving Dean the opening to talk about it.
Sam thought that Dean was going to say he didn't remember it, but then Dean shook his head.
"It was about the pit.'
Dean had shared some of what had happened to him while he'd been held prisoner. At first only the overview, but he'd gradually talked about the details.
"You wanna tell me?" Sam offered, his voice gentle.
"What's the point?" Dean asked miserably as he rested his head back against the seat. "We anywhere near a motel?"
"Probably not too far."
"Let's stop, okay?"
Sam nodded even though Dean's eyes were still closed. He was afraid to speak because of the tears that threatened to fall. But he was more afraid of what Dean would think of his silence, so he cleared his throat. "Yeah, first place I see."
Turns out the first place Sam saw was a small motel with a lit no vacancy sign in the office window. He didn't say anything to Dean, whose eyes were still closed.
To someone who didn't know him, Dean would have appeared relaxed, but Sam knew different. He could feel the tension coming from him and saw how rigid he was really sitting. He wouldn't have expected Dean to keep his eyes closed, but wouldn't be surprised to find out that he was intentionally reliving his nightmare.
Dean had spent his life trying to help people and when, after 30 years of nothing but torture, he'd been broken to the point where he'd agree to become the aggressor something in him had changed forever. Being the kind of person he was, once Dean wouldn't just phone in his performance, even if he'd been allowed to. He would have given it his all. And because of that, he would forever feel the guilt and shame. Sam knew that no matter what, he would probably never allow himself a moment of peace.
Sam had tried to convince him that the majority of souls in Hell had no doubt deserved to be there and he'd not made innocent people suffer, but that didn't matter to Dean.
Sam glanced across the car when his brother suddenly sat up straighter.
"What?" he asked, taking care to keep his voice low despite his own nervousness.
Dean only shook his head and Sam wondered if he'd started to drift off again.
"I saw a billboard for a place coming up. We'll be there soon," Sam said.
"You still have that coffee?" Dean's voice sounded like he'd swallowed a pound of sand.
"Yeah," Sam had taken a few sips of it, but he handed the cup to Dean.
They didn't drink their coffee the same way, but Dean didn't seem to notice the difference as he swallowed the warm liquid.
"Thanks," he said after a moment and he held the cup out to Sam.
"You can have it."
"You awake enough to drive?"
He hadn't been when he stopped for coffee earlier, but after what had happened, Sam wasn't sure he'd be able to sleep for a while.
"Look, uh," From the corner of his eye, Sam saw Dean run a hand over his face.
"You apologize and I'll pull over to kick your ass," Sam said. Sometimes it took a direct route to get to his brother.
Dean smiled to himself.
"I'll listen all night long if you want to talk about the dream. Or if you want to talk about Hell," Sam looked at him. "But I won't waste a second to listen to you say you're sorry. You don't have anything to be sorry about."
"How can you be so sure about that?" Dean asked.
Because you're my brother and I say so.
"I know you, Dean. My whole life, remember?"
"You didn't know me in the hole, man."
"You were pushed. You had no choice."
"I gave in."
"After thirty years of nothing but pain."
"Yeah," Sam said earnestly. "It does."
"What I did…."
"Dean, come on. You held out for thirty years. Thirty years, man. And what happened to you in that time?" Sam shook his head. "I can only imagine."
"It's not my imagination, Sammy. I remember it. I did it." Sam saw a sideways glance from his brother. "And not everyone in Hell is there because they were bad people. A lot of people make deals."
How could I not have thought of that?
Sam looked at his brother sharply and had to force his eyes back to the road.
"Is that who –"
"Still," Sam said. "You held out for thirty years. You can't take on everyone's burden, Dean."
"But I don't have to give them mine, either."
Sam didn't know what to say to that, but he couldn't let that stand.
"That isn't what you did," he said, not wanting the silence to go on for too long. He didn't have anything to follow it up with, but he was furiously trying to come up with something. He found something he'd not tried before. "And whatever, you were important enough to the man upstairs that he sent an angel to pull you out. That doesn't happen to everyone, Dean."
"You think?" Dean asked after a long silence.
"Yeah," Sam said. "I do."
Dean was quiet. Sam left him to his thoughts as he navigated toward a motel, following directions he'd read on the billboard.
"You think Dad knows?"
Sam was startled not only by the sound of his brother's voice, but by the question.
"I don't know. But if he does, I don't think he'd be disappointed."
Dean nodded thoughtfully.
"What about Mom?" he asked after another silence.
Sam blinked back his own sudden tears. "She'd be proud of the man you became."
He saw the motel up ahead. It was more out of the way than most roadside places, but at least there appeared to be a room available. Sam pulled into a parking spot outside of the office and reached for the door handle.
"I'll go," Dean said and was out of the car before Sam could say anything.
Sam watched him and before Dean reached the office door, he turned around and came back to the car. He stood next to the driver side door and Sam rolled down the window.
"Slide over. I want to drive."
Sam moved to the passenger seat. Dean sat behind the wheel without moving and Sam thought he was going to change his mind.
"Sam, uh," Dean cleared his throat. "Thanks."
"Any time, brother."